Entries tagged with “music”.

Today I went to the American Martial Arts Institute in Bear, Delaware and had my first lesson. I am the proud owner of a new black gi, and I’m motivated to really do this right. I feel pretty good, and nobody died.

Thanks to Al Katerinsky for being so inspiring at Confluence, and Keith DeCandido, for talking so positively about martial arts. Between the two of you, I’m headed down that road again.

Here’s some music to play along the way:

Janis Ian with special guest Diana Jones
at World Café Live at The Queen, Wilmington, DE

24 April 2013

This was our second visit to WCF–the first was earlier this month to see my guitar teacher Chuck Kuzminski play as of The Company, performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall a few weeks ago.

Instead of just a few scattered tables, for this performance everyone was seated. We were at a table for six, with a couple from right in Wilmington, and a couple who’d driven all the way in from Philly for the performance. Nearly every seat was taken, and everyone was respectful and seemed to be having an awesome time.

We’d come early, having discovered at our previous outing just how good the food was–there was also an email early in the day letting us know that food/drink service would be suspended during the performance, at the performer’s request. We were reminded of this on arrival, that it was “at the request of Miss Janis Ian.”

Dinner was shared crab dip, duck and creme brulee for me, and a burger for Mike. Mike also indulged in a specialty coffee, while I sipped a Glenlivet during the show.

The opening act was Diana Jones, a singer/guitarist, with a pleasant, hypnotic finger-picking guitar style that provides a nice background for her songs. She sings mostly sad songs, lots drawn from historical events, with good stories behind them and in the lyrics.

Diana played both a standard steel-stringed guitar, and a tenor guitar. She introduced Janis Ian with very little fanfare, saying she’d been asked to sing harmony on a song that she’d been singing since she was thirteen (“Through the Years”). Diana stayed for Janis’s first two songs, then quietly left the stage, returning during the second set for the last song.

Janis is positively mesmerizing. Her voice is strong and she plays with incredible authority. She exudes energy as she sings, throughout her entire performance–we saw Jackson Browne last year in Philly, and he seemed tired and run down by comparison. This is one powerful woman. I think she’s gotten better and better as the years have gone by–she is absolutely remarkably to listen to, both her singing and her guitar work.

Janis made a point of complementing World Café Live–where people get treated right and sound & lights are primo. She’d love a string of clubs across the country just like this where she could perfrom. As it’s a great place to take in a show–I applaud her support. She looked classy, comfortable, and elegant–not an easy combination, but she carried it off easily.

Between songs, she told great stories of how she came to write some of them, or just entertaining anecdotes–but she kept the audience engaged and hanging on every word. She told jokes: “An ex-president, a first lady, and three lesbians walk into a bar . . . ”

She did a short first set following on Diana Jones, then came back and did a full second set and an encore. At the end there were two well-deserved standing ovations.

We went home with a copy of her two CD retrospective The Essential Janis Ian.

set list:
Through the Years [with Diana Jones]
When the Party’s Over [with Diana Jones]
From Me to You
Society’s Child
My Autobiography
The Tiny Mouse
Bright Lights and Promises

~~ intermission~~

Tea and Sympathy
Light a Light
Married in London
At Seventeen
I’m Still Standing [with Diana Jones]
(note: I’m Still Standing is not yet available as a studio recording, find it on YouTube)

~~ standing ovation ~~

Jesse (with her voice unamplified)

blue oyster cult 40th anniversary

Left to right: Buck Dharma, Jules Radino, Joe Bouchard, Richie Castellano
Albert Bouchard, Kait, *me*, Eric Bloom, Kasim Sulton

click picture for the full-sized version

The setup: via car, train, and taxi–my friend Kait and I made our way to Times Square in Manhattan on Monday night to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Blue Oyster Cult. We even arrived at the venue early enough to pop in across the street to Carmine’s for a light supper (baked clams or portobello mushrooms parmesan) and a drink (single malt scotch neat or bourbon on the rocks).

I had a family event that conflicted with the original date for the concert, but Hurricane Sandy caused the concert date to be moved back by a week. I found out that tickets were available for the new date just a few days before the show, when Eric Bloom posted about it on his facebook page. I scrambled for someone to come with me–I was nervous about going down to Manhattan by myself. My friend Kait agreed to come, even though we’d only met previously via email while negotiating about her new maine coon kitten.

I’ve written about Blue Oyster Cult before–they’ve been my favorite band since I first saw then live at the Nassau Coliseum in the early 1980s.

This show was special for two reasons–it was the band’s fortieth anniversary, and Columbia Record’s was releasing a boxed set of 16 CDs/1 DVD of all the Blue Oyster Cult recordings on their label. To join in the fun, the original five band members were planning on playing together again . . .

They got the band back together. Sweet.

Through dumb luck, and the fact that I wanted the box set, I ended up with VIP tickets. What did the VIP tix include? The box set, fourth row seats, a commemorative poster signed by the band, and a quick “Hi”/photo op With. The. Band. Before the show. Photographic evidence above (as Amanda Palmer would say “Pictures or it didn’t happen”). Totally worth it. Eric even liked my hat.

The band entered the stage to the theme from the HBO series Game of Thrones (these guys are so cool–they are geeks like us!). They were dressed mostly in black, a bit more formal than usual–maybe a holdover from last week’s show in Port Washington? Or maybe they discovered that they liked the more elegant look. Not too cookie-cutter, though–and Jules (the drummer) was wearing a black vest over a gray t-shirt. He usually sweats up a storm over the course of the show. Buck looked understated in a black shirt, Eric was in a black leather jacket, Richie in a black blazer and black pants that laced-up the sides (nice!), and Kasim in a black-on-black blazer that looked like burnout velvet–I’ll take that, please.

Richie (as usual) was so energetic that I got tired just watching him. He was bounding all over the stage. Buck played countless short solos, all excellent–I could listen to him all day. About six songs in, Richie’s jacket came off, and he and Buck both did great guiter work on “Then Came the Last Days of May.”

Bruce Kapler (from Paul Shaffer’s band) played sax on “Shooting Shark,” and he added real dimension to the song. Kasim was exuberant as hell here, too. The bass work on ME262 and Godzilla were also outstanding.

Eric was in a talkative mood again, sharing tidbits of the band’s history. Apparently, this was the first time they’ve played “Death Valley Nights” live. Albert Bouchard came out to sing it, and he really got into it, although he did slip a little on the words to one of the verses–despite that, awesome.

The week before was the best performance of “In Thee” I had ever heard. This concert, they played it again with the song’s writer Allan Lanier performing with the band, and managed to do even better. One of the evenings high points.

The return of the old lineup to play a few old songs was nothing short of magical. By that part of the evening, I was “in the zone”–totally entranced by the whole experience. They ended the night with everyone (old and new) performing “Reaper”–with Albert on the drums, Andy Ascolese on the tambourine and *both* Jules and Kasim banging away on cowbells.

Truly a magical night to remember. The concert of the century.

Kait and I are now best friends for life.

Set List:
[Musicians: Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Richie Castellano, Jules Radino, Kasim Sulton] – current BOC lineup
This Ain’t the Summer of Love (Agents of Fortune)
Golden Age of Leather (Spectres)
Burnin’ for You (Fire of Unknown Origin)
Harvest Moon
ME262 (Secret Treaties)
Then Came the Last Days of May (Blue Oyster Cult)
Lips in the Hills (Cultosaurus Erectus)
Shooting Shark (The Revolution by Night) [guest sax player Bruce Kapler]
Godzilla (Spectres)
I Love the Night (Spectres)
***the next several numbers are acoustic***
[Musicians: Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Richie Castellano, Jules Radino, Kasim Sulton, percussionist Andy Ascolese]
Harvester of Eyes (Secret Treaties)
Astronomy (Secret Treaties)
Gil Blanco County (Soft White Underbelly St. Cecilia)
Death Valley Nights (Spectres) [guest vocalist: Albert Bouchard]
In Thee (Mirrors) [guest: Allan Lanier]
***end of acoustic***
Summa Cum Laude (from the movie Teachers)
~~~I think this is the end of the first set–my notes are unclear~~~
Arthur Comics (Soft White Underbelly St. Cecilia)
Black Blade (Cultosaurus Erectus)
[Musicians: Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Allan Lanier, Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard] – original BOC lineup
OD’d on Life Itself (Tyranny and Mutation)
Career of Evil (Secret Treaties)
The Red and the Black (Tyranny and Mutation)
[Musicians: Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Richie Castellano, Jules Radino, Kasim Sulton , Allan Lanier, Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard, Andy Ascolese ] – everybody past and present
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Agents of Fortune)

best buy theater marquee
Best Buy Theater Marquee
buck dharma
Buck Dharma
richie castellano
Richie Castellano
eric bloom
Eric Bloom
allan lanier
Allan Lanier
kasim sulton
Kasim Sulton
bruce kapler
Bruce Kapler
jules radino~albert bouchard
Jules Radino & Albert Bouchard
Albert Bouchard
Albert Bouchard

Saturday night we traveled down to Port Washington, New York to see Blue Oyster Cult perform their first all acoustic show ever. Wearing black shirts and blazers, they looked liked a jazz band, but they sounded like anything but.

The current lineup of Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Richie Castellano, Jules Radino and Kasim Sulton were joined by additional percussionist Andy Ascolese. I could swear I’ve seen Andy before–working backstage in May at the Howard Theater concert . . .

They opened with “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” and the energy never slacked. Eric was in a talkative mood, telling the tales behind the songs, giving the performance a very coffeehouse feel, and making it very . . . up close and personal. Although I’m not sure I really wanted to know the story behind “Before the Kiss, a Recap” and the events in Conry’s Bar.

High points included the prettiest version I’ve ever heard of “Burnin’ for You”, Richie playing some rockin’ harmonica on “Before the Kiss” and some awesome piano on “Dancin’ in the Ruins” (we were on the far left–I could see Richie pretty clearly). Hearing “Divine Wind” which was written about the Iran Hostage Crisis after researching same to do a review of Argo. Finally hearing “I Love the Night” live (it’s one of my favorite BOC songs, and I’ve seen them dozens of times, yet I’ve never heard them do it live before). Buck telling the story behind “The Vigil”, which was originally named “The Devil’s Nail” (and was much more provocative. Eric responding to a request by explaining that they’d tried out songs acoustically, some didn’t work, and they were going to play “What was on the list.” The fantastic encore: “In Thee” absolutely sounds better acoustically.

Highest point: my dh actually appreciated the concert.

It was also great to see Richie using a tablet computer (iPad or equivalent) on the piano for either last minute reminders or his setlist. Technology is everywhere!

Set list:
This Ain’t the Summer of Love (Agents of Fortune)
Before the Kiss, a Recap (Blue Oyster Cult)
Divine Wind (Cultosaurus Erectus)
Burnin’ for You (Fire of Unknown Origin)
O.D.’d on Life Itself (Tyranny and Mutation) — this translated a little oddly to the acoustic setup
Dancin’ in the Ruins (Club Ninja)
I Love the Night (Spectres)
Career of Evil (Secret Treaties)
Astronomy (Secret Treaties)
The Vigil (Mirrors)
Harvester of Eyes (Secret Treaties)
Don’t Fear the Reaper (Agents of Fortune)
In Thee (Mirrors)
Gil Blanco County (Soft White Underbelly St. Cecilia)
ME262 (Secret Treaties)

There was no cowbell.

If you’ve been following my guitar saga, I did end up ordering my dream guitar to replace my deceased [and ancient] folk guitar–an Ovation Celebrity CC059 acoustic-electric. It arrived Wednesday, spent a day getting checked out by Chuck (CKuz Guitars, my excellent local expert), and is an almost constant distraction from the work I should be doing.

Fortunately, I’ve been getting a lot of work done lately (probably because I have an extraordinary number of deadlines to hit), and I’ve been compensating with breaks to play the Ovation and to read S.C.P.D.: The Case of the Claw by Keith R.A. DeCandido, which is really distracting.

The most amazing thing about the guitar is the built-in tuner–I bought my last guitar in the ’80s. I still remember how cool it was to shift from a pitch pipe to an electronic tuner (and yes, I can tune without an electronic aid!).

Today I tried out the Ovation plugged for the first time, just to see what it sounded like. Very different from my Gibson–a much cleaner sound. I really like it, although non-amped is just fine for the most part.

ovation celebrity cc059 acoustic-electic guitar

My finger dexterity is slowly coming back (bar chords very slowly), but I’m getting there.

I had played someone’s Ovation back in High School? College? and loved the round back, and the experience stuck with me. The super-shallow body of this model is a really good fit for me, and is really comfortable to play. Not sure it’s the right guitar for everyone–but I’m super happy with my choice.

Why did I stop playing again?

My folk guitar has died. Not the One True Death–the nut(?) at the top of the fretboard has broken badly enough to make playing it a truly frustrating experience. It has a few other minor issues, and I decided it was time to replace it. So this past Monday it went to my local guitar expert (Chuck), and I set him to the task of finding me a suitable replacement. I’m leery of buying a guitar sight unseen on the internet–I just don’t have the requisite knowledge.

This guitar has been with me since I was sixteen. Until then, I’d been playing whatever instruments my folks pointed me at, including stints playing accordion, violin, recorder, and flute. But guitar was something I wanted to play. I was still noodling around on the recorder occasionally at that point (and continued through college and beyond when I joined the SCA–I can play the range from sopranino through tenor) and I was playing flute in the school band. After a few (6?) lessons in classical guitar, I became pretty much self-taught, and I’ve played on-and-off since then. During college and grad school I played enough to do coffeehouse-type stuff, but getting a real job interfered. I’ve been playing again lately, as a break from editing and writing, enough so my calluses are back.

So, Plan B. With the folk guitar out of the picture, I dusted off my Gibson SG. That was an acquisition during my Risley days at Cornell (for you Risloids reading this–I bought it from Vic Venning when we both lived there). What a joy! I’d forgotten what low action the Gibson has, and how easy it is to play. I recently replaced my [huge] old Peavey Pacer, victim of one of our early maine coon cats (who marked territory when she was in season) with a teeny-tiny practice amp that I love. Only thing is, suddenly my music selection is widely different. On the folk guitar, I lean toward 60s and 70s folk/protest songs or soft rock (think “House of the Rising Sun” and “Universal Soldier”). Now, I find myself reaching for the Led Zep songbook and Blue Oyster Cult . . . .

BTW, if anyone hears about a nice nylon-string guitar for sale out there–I’m in the market. If the right guitar (new or new-to-me) doesn’t present itself over the next five or six weeks, I’m seriously looking at the Ovation CC059 as a replacement. I’m open to suggestions if anyone has any.

ps. While I wrote some [bad] songs back in my teens, and set some poems to music, I haven’t tried to write (music) since. I started working on a filk song (set to an old folk song) on the way down to Mysticon (it’s a long drive down to Roanoke). Maybe one of these days I’ll do something more than listen at an open filk . . . .